Posted on December 7, 2011 by

We spent most of Thanksgiving day lounging around in a tamale induced semi-coma. It was beautiful. We couldn’t help but watch a little tv – football naturally (go, Cowgirls!), Back to the Future (the scene of my first real date, in the theater c.1986) , and a couple of episodes the iconic 1970’s series The Walton’s. If you’re too bitty to know or remember the show, it was about a large traditional multigenerational family living in Depression era rural Virginia. It was my favorite show as a child, one of the few I was allowed to watch, and it actually still informs how I would like to live (plain, country, uncomplicated), even the sort of house I’d like to live in (plain, country, uncomplicated).

An outline of an episode reveals the idyllic yet timeless values of the Walton family, as they come up against modernization and worldliness:

  • Large family shares large house and operates micro-farm and family business on ancestral land
  • Financial hard times kept at bay (and in perspective) by hard work, a spiritual as much as a practical exercise
  • Too forward girl treated politely but not encouraged (no sluts/no players)
  • Young man (at an age we still consider boyhood) strikes out on his own
  • Daddy understandably freaks out that dinner isn’t on the table on time after a morning of hard physical labor by the men, especially because Mama was off looking for walk-about son after Daddy told her to leave him alone
  • Mama fixes lunch – no back talk, no foot stomping and carrying on about “her rights”
  • Community member makes friendly report to family on whereabouts of son
  • Daddy respects sons independence and rights as his own man, and welcomes him home when he chooses to return
  • Daddy worries about making ends meet, but doesn’t begrudge competition. Unsavory Competitor reveals it’s true nature and suffers consequences for it’s greed, with the help of a little hillbilly ingenuity (not exactly cheating) rather than law or regulation.
  • Porch, radio, moonshine.
  • Good night, John Boy.
  • The End.

Subsidiarity, solidarity, even small-scale capitalistic distributivism organically occur within the microcosm. Interdependence is what establishes and maintains the social order: authority rests with the father (who has taken the reigns as patriarch from his aging father, who is now under his protection), the work is shared amongst the family, even the very young and very old, and the community serves as extra eyes and ears, looking out for the interests of it’s own, and the family reciprocates as is necessary. Their prayers are largely for more work for the family business, and expressions of gratitude for each other and for simple provision – at once quintessentially American and antithetical to the modern American way of life.

We cannot go back in time, and even if we could we cannot live the lives of a fictional family, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we approached our current economic and social crises from their point of view?  Walton’s Mountain, FTW.

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